Red Cross to stop soliciting for Sept. 11 disaster relief fund, introduces interim CEO

Wednesday, October 31st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The American Red Cross has raised enough money to help victims of the terrorist attacks and will stop asking for donations, its interim chief executive says.

The Liberty Fund held $547 million in pledges as of Monday. More than $200 million in uncommitted money will be held to meet future needs arising from the attacks and the aftermath.

Harold Decker, the charity's temporary leader, said it was known from the start that the fund was for a specific event _ the Sept. 11 attacks _ and would eventually be closed.

Another factor is the effect that raising money exclusively for the Liberty Fund has had on the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, the general account for floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and other emergencies.

The disaster fund had $26 million as of Sept. 30, chief financial officer Jack Campbell said Tuesday. The fund's target is about $57 million, he said.

As a result, contributions arriving at the Red Cross after Wednesday will go to the general disaster fund unless donors specify the money should be used for attack relief, Decker said.

Liberty Fund money also will continue to be held separately from other funds, Decker said, and will be devoted to aiding victims' families and other relief efforts arising from the attacks.

``That is the way the fund was set up. That is what donors expect,'' he told reporters.

During a weekend meeting, the Red Cross' governing board chose Decker to succeed Bernadine Healy, who resigned Friday. A search for a permanent replacement is under way.

In her resignation, Healy cited differences with the board, including her decision to keep the Liberty Fund money separate from the organization's main relief fund.

Decker said charitable groups, many of which serve different needs than the Red Cross, should not be influenced by the Liberty Fund's closure.

He also said the decision shouldn't hamper future Red Cross fund raising.

``If we need to come up with support and relief for our fellow citizens in another time, in another place, in another manner, the American Red Cross will do it,'' said Decker, 56, who joined the Red Cross as deputy general counsel in February after 21 years with drug maker Pharmacia Corp.

As for criticism of the handling of the Liberty Fund and Healy's abrupt departure from the nation's largest charity at such a critical time, Decker said the ``American people understand the Red Cross is doing its very best under very difficult circumstances.''

``This is not a one-person operation, and the Red Cross will go forward,'' he said.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, which killed more than 4,800 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, the Red Cross has spent more than $140 million on related disaster relief.

Of that amount, almost $44 million has been shared by more than 2,200 families to help cover housing, child care, food and other expenses for about three months.

About $67 million was used for immediate disaster relief needs, such as onsite food, shelter and other support for rescue workers and victims' families.

More than $11.5 million has been spent on blood donor programs, $14.7 million on nationwide community outreach and $2.5 million on indirect support costs, such as fuel for emergency response vehicles and maintaining a toll-free information hot line.

The Red Cross expects to spend about $300 million over the next year on these projects.

More than $200 million remaining will be used in future years to aid victims of the attacks and its aftermath.

The charity also has given money to the families of a tabloid photo editor in Florida and two Washington postal workers who died after being infected with anthrax, Campbell said.